It’s the second season of football in a COVID-19 world, and one thing is certain: football will look different, once again, in 2021. As society tries to safely return to some level of normality, fans are returning to the stands in larger numbers. Whether they are tailgating at the stadium or cheering on from the comfort of home, consumers are making game-day purchases. According to a recent NPD/CivicScience poll, among U.S. consumers planning to make purchases for this football season, 70% plan to buy snack foods, 31% plan to buy team licensed clothing, 17% plan to buy television and home theater products, and 13% plan to buy grills, chairs, coolers, and other tailgating items.

We asked some of our industry analysts to weigh in on how the football season translates into sales within their respective industries, and here’s what they had to say…

Where There’s Fun, There’s Food

Darren Seifer

Darren Seifer, food and beverage: Snacking is synonymous with watching football, whether you’re watching it from the stands or on a TV. Salty and savory snacks, like potato or tortilla chips, are popular choices for football fans — the likelihood of eating tortilla chips while watching a game increases by 74% over any other time. And if you’re eating chips, you’ve got to have dips or salsa. The pairing of dips with salty and savory snacks while watching football increases by 143% compared to other times, and salsa increases by 61%. 

Wear Your Support on Your Sleeve

Dirk Sorenson

Dirk Sorenson, sports: The kick-off to football season is a critical period for licensed NFL and NCAA collegiate apparel sales. September is typically the third-highest revenue-generating month for this type of apparel in a normal calendar year, which held true for pre-pandemic 2019. Only November and December, influenced by holiday purchases, traditionally contributes greater revenue share than this kickoff month.

If the trends in recent months are any indication, we can expect a strong September this year. Compared to 2019, sales from May through July 2021 grew by 36% for licensed apparel from NCAA and 30% for NFL.

Breaking this down a bit further, men’s product sales grew by 42% for NFL and by 29% for NCAA, from May through July 2021 compared to 2019. Women’s interest orients more strongly towards collegiate apparel, with women’s NCAA apparel sales up 36%, in 2021, and only 7% higher for NFL products. It is worth noting that sales of NFL licensed children’s apparel were down during these months, declining by 11% for boys’ and 47% for girls’ products. The slow and uncertain back-to-school season may be affecting these sales.

Go Big or Go Home

Stephen Baker

Stephen Baker, consumer technology: The period around the start of football season typically gets a small share shift into larger TVs, 65-inches and larger, as well as an overall increase in TV sales after the normal summer doldrums. Sports tend to spur more TV sales, but big events remain the best predictor of seasonality in TVs. The Super Bowl always drives up TV sales for football fans and, between 2016 and 2019, Super Bowl week was among the top three sales weeks in the first half of the year.

Fire Up the Grill


Joe Derochowski, home: The pandemic has created a craving for connection with others, and a craving for our passions, including sporting events. Historically—and coinciding with tailgating season—there was a sales bump for slow cookers, portable grills, flasks, and other products at the end of August, which gained steam through September. Accessories related to grilling at home also enjoyed a revenue boost. We saw these trends take place most recently in 2019, and I expect they will come back to life this year, as gatherings return, both at home and outside. 

Dirk Sorenson

Dirk Sorenson: One trend that swelled during the pandemic, and shows no sign of abating, is the desire for outdoor recreation and socializing, all of which happen during the football season. Tailgating, watching games outside, and having backyard sports parties may continue the growth trends NPD has tracked in many outdoor equipment categories. From May through July 2021, compared to the same period in 2019, camp chair sales increased 72%, outdoor shelters grew 62%, soft sided coolers rose 46%, and hard sided coolers were up 20%.